Part II of Democracy Now!s exclusive broadcast of Amy Goodman’s interview with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide aboard his flight from the Central African Republic to Jamaica. [Includes transcript]
Since winning independence from the French 200 years ago through a revolutionary slave revolt, Haiti has seen 33 military coups. Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the man overthrown in the two most recent ones.
In 1991, less than a year after becoming the first democratically-elected leader in Haiti’s history, Aristide was overthrown by paramilitary death squads working closely with US intelligence agencies. After a few years in exile, Aristide returned to Haiti in 1994 in a US military plane to serve the remaining few months left in his term.
In 2000, Aristide won the presidential election a second time. Once again, a few years after being elected, Aristide has been overthrown in a coup–by many of same men who led the armed insurrection against him a decade earlier. People like Louis Jodel Chamblain, the former number 2 man in FRAPH convicted in absentia for 1994 Raboteau massacre and the September 11, 1993 assassination of democracy-activist Antoine Izméry; Guy Philippe, a former police chief who fled Haiti in October 2000 after authorities discovered him plotting a coup with a clique of other police chiefs who had all been trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador during the 1991-1994 coup and Jean Tatoune another leader of FRAPH, also convicted of massacre in Raboteau.
Two weeks ago after being taken by force to the Central African Republic in what Aristide calls a US-orchestrated coup d’etat, the Haitian president defied Washington this weekend and returned to the Caribbean. He is now in Jamaica, just 130 miles or so from Haiti.
I was one of two journalists allowed on the plane that took a delegation of US and Jamaican officials to escort President Aristide and his wife Mildred back to the Caribbean. As we crossed the Atlantic on our way to Kingston, Jamaica, I had a chance to conduct an extensive interview with President Aristide on-board the Gulfstream jet.
Today we play Part II of my interview with Aristide, where he discusses his time as president, the first coup, disbanding the military and more:
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: We had an army of 7,000 soldiers controlling 40% of the national region. Not only they led those coup, they had 32 coup d’etats, the last one 33. After the coup they led in 1991, they and members of a criminal organization, well known FRAPH, killed more than 5,000 Haitians. Some people don’t like to hear 5,000 because for them it could be double or more than that. Let’s say more than 5,000 people were killed by the army at that time with the help of the well-known criminal organization called FRAPH. When i went back on October 15, 1994, it was obvious that the Haitian people couldn’t go ahead with killers. The Haitian people wanted people to protect them, not people to kill them. So, the army was disbanded. Now they reached a way to have more drug dealers, like Guy Philippe who was arrested for drugs in Panama, sent back to Santo Domingo and then back to Haiti with the assistance of those who pretend to restore peaces to Haiti, Chamblain was already convicted twice and now he is back. So having criminals, drug dealers, thugs who were convicted to come back with an army, then when they guess what we had through those 32 coup d’etats, leading Haiti from misery to misery while we want to move from misery to poverty with dignity, this is maybe what they have in their minds.
AMY GOODMAN: When the CARICOM U.S. Group came and negotiated the U.S.-backed peace plan that you accepted with Noriega, Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State representing the United States, how did they refer to the opposition, how did they refer to the people you just described as Jodel Chamblain, Guy Philippe?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: The meeting we had with members of my government and diplomats and heads of international delegations in my office, Mr. Noriega referring to those thugs terrorists said "I will call them killers", that’s what he said. I’m shocked when today I still see members of the international community acting with those killers. More than that accompanying Guy Philippe, a killer, to distribute food to people, so trying to project another image of him when as a well-known drug dealer and a killer he should be put in jail. So, it is scandalous. The world needs to know that. The more they listen to what is going on in Haiti today, the more they may join the Haitian people to prevent the killers to continue to do the same, killing people.
AMY GOODMAN: Jean-Bertrand Aristide on board the chartered jet as we headed over the Atlantic. The U.S. Delegation headed by congress member Maxine Waters and the Jamaican Member of Parliament Sharon Hay-Webster. Bringing the Aristides to Jamaica, this as members of the Bush administration from Condoleezza Rice to Donald Rumsfeld warned that Jean-Bertrand Aristide should not return to this hemisphere. I asked Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide if he could talk about the killing of the justice minister in Haiti in 1993; Louis Jodel Chamblain, one of the current so-called rebels, was convicted of murdering Guy Mallory. This was Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s response.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: From 1991 to 1994, the Minister of Justice, Guy Mallory, Father Mallory’s son, Antoine Izmery, the people they killed [inaudible] lost their lives because they were calling for democracy, the restoration of the constitutional order for my return to Haiti. After I returned, we had a trial. And Chamblain was convicted by a court of us. Twice. In spite of that, nothing happened only impunity and assistance and heavy machine guns were provided to him and the orders to have them appearing as rebels, as if they were not anymore killers, people already convicted. This is the cynical picture.
AMY GOODMAN: We have our September 11, 2001. Chile has their September 11, 1973, the day the Salvador Allende died in the palace as the Pinochet forces rose to power. You have two separate September 11ths, 1988 and 1993. Can you describe what happened to you and your parish, your congregation on September 11, 1988 at San Jean Bosco?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: We were praying. We were celebrating our faith in God. And for us, God means love, peace, justice, freedom, solidarity. Getting together to pray means empowering all those who share the same faith. If you stand up for justice, then you cannot close the eyes to not see poor people waiting to have jobs, to eat with dignity. Once you stand up for that, then you may have people not only rejecting you but also putting fire in a church, burning people. This is what happened that day, September 11, 1988. When we had it elsewhere, not in a church, but in a country, like Chile and President Allende willing to stand up for human beings, for the rights to eat, the rights to go to school, the rights to have healthcare, and so and so, people who don’t care about human beings rejected that through coup d’état. When, on September 11, 2001, something tragical happened in the United States called terrorism, we saw the world rejecting terrorism, as if—when, for instance, we have Guy Philippe, Chamblain, well known as terrorists, drug dealers, convicted people, armed by those who pretend helping Haiti, to kill Haitians, it’s like if—it’s not anymore terrorism. So, racism somehow is linked to that cynical game.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! "The War and Peace Report" I’m Amy Goodman. As we continue with the interview with President Aristide, I had asked the Haitian president on board this flight where he and his wife traveled for 17 hours to get back to Jamaica, you can go to our website at democracynow.org to see the chronicle of this trip: brought to the Central African Republic by the United States with dozens of U.S. military, and security taken there, the early hours of February 29, taken out of Haiti, not knowing where they were going. They said told by the — one of top men in the U.S. Embassy, Louis Moreno who had come to the President’s residence, that he would be going to address the press. Instead, he was rushed on to a — he was rushed on to a U.S. plane. I asked Jean-Bertrand Aristide if he could go back in time, as we look at the current rebel leaders like Chamblain, convicted of the murders of not only the justice minister in 1993, Guy Mallory, but the Haitian businessman Antoine Izmery in 1993 about this significance of Haiti’s September 11 in 1988, the massacre at the church, Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s church. He had been a priest. And that happened September 11, 1988. Five years later, September 11, 1993, the Haitian multimillionaire businessman Antoine Izmery join add procession to remember the victims of the massacre and he, too, was executed. I asked Jean-Bertrand Aristide about this.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: On September 11, 1988, they burned the church, they burned people, killed people as I explained. While I was in exile, Antoine Izmery went to the church of Sacre Coeur on the same day, on September 11, to remember what happened in 1988, to bring his solidarity to the parents, relatives, friends of the victims and also to empower those who are peacefully fighting for our return, which was clearly the restoration of democracy to Haiti. And the same people who made it happen in Saint-Jean Bosco made it happen again in Sacre Coeur. The worst was already bad, but it’s shameful when we see today, the same hands, killing people, burning houses almost the same way.
AMY GOODMAN: Jodel Chamblain was convicted of Izmery’s murder?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Yes. Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet when we watch television, where most people get their news and information, we almost never hear them mentioned.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: We will not, since last November, they brought to Haiti a good number of journalists. We fought hard for the freedom of press. So we will continue to respect the rights of every single journalist. But unfortunately, what happened from November to today is a tragic event where it seems money was spend to bribe journalists, not all of them, but some of them, money was used to finance radio stations playing the card of so-called opposition, linked to Chamblain, linked to Guy Philippe, being their voices. When Jean Tautoune was convicted, put in jail, escaped from jail, and giving interviews to those radio stations, to TVs, which kind of impunity are we talking about? Which kind of freedom for the press are we talking about? Is it freedom for the press as a cover for impunity? Or as a full place where you use your rights to talk, to criticize, to say what you want? Yes. We had that in Haiti where journalists could talk. But all the journalists who were in Haiti from November to the coup or kidnapping were not there just to tell the truth. But also some of them were there because they were paid to relay the lives which strayed this information around the world, paving the way for the kidnapping.
AMY GOODMAN: Who paid them?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Every year, for the past couple of years, $56 million U.S. Dollars went to Haiti to finance political parties, — , radio stations, TV stations, journalists, who got all visa from embassies, lying to discredit our fragile democracy, our money from those $56 million U.S. dollars. Recently, for the past year, it became $70 million U.S. dollars. So, this is well known. It is not a secret.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re saying the U.S. government forces poured this money in.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: That money came from abroad: U.S., Europe, through E.U., and organizations like that.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you see similarities —
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: And maybe this is the last question for T.V.
AMY GOODMAN: Ok. Do you see similarities with what happened with you and what is continuing to happen with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: They say that IRI was behind a coup which happened in Venezuela and still behind what is going on in Venezuela.
AMY GOODMAN: The International Republican Institute?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Correct. They say they have their hands through what is happening in Haiti. Often, they organize seminars for the so-called opposition where they had Guy Philippe, Chamblain and members of the Haitian opposition, training them to kill, to talk after killing, to project an image of democratic opposition with heavy machine guns on your shoulders, blood on their hands, etcetera. So, this is, from my point of view, the same hands behind the same things happening in two different countries.
AMY GOODMAN: You have information that people who support you are people who were part of Lavalas are being threatened or killed in Haiti right now?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: A good number of them are in hiding. But because they are cowards, but because this is a strategy to spend time where they hay not kill you, to come back in a peaceful way and continue to support democracy calling for the restoration of the constitution of order. Others were killed. I’m very sad when they say about those who were killed. Others left the country by boat to go to Florida. And, unfortunately, when the house is on fire, those who put fire in the house are the same who send back the victims fleeing the fire put in that house. Violation of international law and attraction to have more people because as long as you continue to kill people in the country, you invite them to come to your country because they will continue to flee that occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: When you were ousted in 1991, for the three-year periods, there was not only a mass movement in Haiti, but a mass movement in the United States of support and solidarity. Do you have any message you want to send to the American people?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I will say thank you to all the American people who supported democracy with the Haitian people and who continue to support the Haitian people supporting democracy in Haiti. We want elections in Haiti. Free, fair, democratic elections. That means one human being, one vote, which is a democratic principle. We want to respect that principle. I know how the American people care for that democratic principle. They want to see their vote respected. As we in Haiti want to see the vote of the people respected. By supporting us, the American people support what they want to be supported in their own country and because any democratic process, which is well protected, may be good for any country where they want democratic systems. I think somehow Haiti and the United States, we are linked by democracy and democratic principles. As we are linked to all the countries where they care for that democratic principle, one human being, one vote, that’s why I thank by expressing our gratitude to our friends living in the U.S. or being U.S. citizens. We think they find energy to continue to build solidarity with the Haitian people. Once we have Haitians in Savannah, I having — having solidarity with the American people to free the American people. Once we got our independence in Haiti, at that time Guyana by itself represented almost half of the territory of the United States at that time. So, we have in common many things. Historic ties. Principles, democratic principles, which makes it good for us to continue to work hard for democracies, which has to flourish not only in one country or in two countries, but in our region.
AMY GOODMAN: Very last question. You were going to Jamaica now, which is very close to Haiti. Do you see yourself returning to Haiti?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I always paid attention to the voice of the Haitian people. As I will continue to pay attention to their voice. Paying attention to their voice respectfully I will know what to do. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide, thank you very much.